Welcome to my tour stop for Meerkat Press‘s blog tour celebrating Eugen Bacon‘s latest release, The Road to Woop Woop and Other Stories. Before we start, I want to send a warm thank you to the publisher for inviting me on the tour and providing me with a review copy of this amazing short story collection which, spoiler alert, I now desperately need to get in physical form!
I honestly discovered a new favorite author (is there any better feeling in the world?!) because Eugen’s writing is just so beautiful and it will get you curious about what else the author has in store for you.
But here I am again letting me excitement get me ahead of myself as opposed to leaving my (semi) coherent gushing for the review :p
All I’m saying for now is that you should definitely follow the #TheRoadToWoopWoop and #BlogTour hashtags on Twitter to visit the other bloggers on the tour and read what they have to say. Meerkat is also hosting a giveaway for the duration of the tour so be sure to check it out. Scroll down to know more about the book, read my review, connect with Eugen, and read an excerpt of the first story in the collection (prominently featured in its title), The Road to Woop Woop!
Cover & Details
Eugen Bacon’s work is cheeky with a fierce intelligence, in prose that’s resplendent, delicious, dark and evocative. NPR called her novel Claiming T-Mo ‘a confounding mysterious tour de force’. The Road to Woop Woop and Other Stories imbues the same lushness in a writerly language that is Bacon’s own. This peculiar hybrid of the untraditional, the extraordinary within, without and along the borders of normalcy will hypnotise and absorb the reader with tales that refuse to be labelled. The stories in this collection are dirges that cross genres in astounding ways. Over 20 provocative tales, with seven original to this collection, by an award-winning African Australian author.Book synopsis for The Road to Woop Woop
Published: Meerkat Press (Dec 1, 2020)
Cover art: Tricia Reeks
Genres: Short story collection, Speculative Fiction, Dark Fantasy
Special specs: Rooted in imaginative scenarios and uprooting bonds (familial and otherwise), a strong memory of tradition and heritage while at the same time building unconventional paths, unique and brilliant writing, cross-genre
*My warm thanks to Meerkat Press for the review copy of the book in exchange for my honest review and for my place on the tour.
For those who love cross-genre explorations, rooted in imaginative scenarios and relationships, with exquisite, unconventional writing made brilliantly alive by memory and tradition.
Eugen Bacon’s The Road to Woop Woop blends together the imaginary, the traditional, the unconventional, and the mesmerizing in one stunning compilation of short stories.
From the first short story, the book promises a magical excursion across the author’s creative mind, and whether these stories tend towards surrealist landscapes, heartwarming familial bonds, or darker shades of fantasy or history, they all share the common tether of the enchanting writing, enrapturing the reader with its style, essence, and creativity.
There’s something magical and simply pulling about the quality of Eugen’s words, a tenor that will quickly enamour the spectator and claim their attention. I had a hard time putting this book down (damn you, adulting responsibilities!), not only because some of these short stories are easily readable in a few minutes, but because even while they are that, their impression is perpetual. This was the first book authored by Eugen that I’ve ever read but I was immediately gripped by its uniqueness. The craft with which Eugen uses language is out-of-the-box literary goodness.
Collecting a mesmerizing contrast of all things within each page, the reader is taken between the traditional and the unorthodox, between the daily and the rare, between the real and the fantastical, and all roads in-between. It both immortalizes heritage by speaking of it with equal parts love and bizarreness, and denies conventional pathways of storytelling to deliver worlds unraveled in curious, thought-provoking ways. Sometimes it makes the stories undoubtedly strange but that’s one aspect it draws its strength, originality, and prowess from. The unique and brilliant writing merges with imaginative, atypical, and remarkable scenarios that are illuminating and deeply enjoyable.
Sometimes it’s a story-moment as simple as the loving relationship between a daughter and the father who loves to support her swimming. Sometimes it’s a murder mystery about a detective with supernatural abilities and the killing of a Nobel Prize winner. Even a historical tale of betrayal in ancient Rome gets a reflective, speculative twist. Humor, darkness, love, second-chances, and more, The Road to Woop Woop and Other Stories is a spectra explored in narrative form.
One thing unites all of it: lore, emotion, memory, extraordinary, and mundane all mix together in harmony to create a fascinating collection of stories that will open the reader to more than just one world within just one book. There’s no greater privilege for a lover of stories.
Possible trigger warnings:
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Connect with Eugen
Eugen Bacon is African Australian, a computer scientist mentally re-engineered into creative writing. She’s the author of Claiming T-Mo (Meerkat Press) and Writing Speculative Fiction (Macmillan). Her work has won, been shortlisted, longlisted or commended in national and international awards, including the Bridport Prize, Copyright Agency Prize, Australian Shadows Awards, Ditmar Awards and Nommo Award for Speculative Fiction by Africans.
THE ROAD TO WOOP WOOP
Tumbling down the stretch, a confident glide, the 4WD is a beaut, over nineteen years old.
The argument is brand-new. Maps are convolutions, complicated like relationships. You scrunch the sheet, push it in the glovebox. You feel River’s displeasure, but you hate navigating, and right now you don’t care.
The wiper swishes to and fro, braves unseasonal rain. You and River maintain your silence.
Rain. More rain.
“When’s the next stop?” River tries. Sidewise glance, cautious smile. He is muscled, dark. Dreadlocks fall down high cheekbones to square shoulders. Eyes like black gold give him the rugged look of a mechanic.
“Does it matter?” you say.
You don’t respond. Turn your head, stare at a thin scratch on your window. The crack runs level with rolling landscape racing away with rain. Up in the sky, a billow of cloud like a white ghoul, dark-eyed and yawning into a scream.
A shoot of spray through River’s window brushes your cheek.
A glide of eye. “Hell’s the matter?” you say.
“You ask me-e. Something bothering you?”
He gives you a look.
Classic,you think. But you know that if you listen long enough, every argument is an empty road that attracts unfinished business. It’s an iceberg full of whimsy about fumaroles and geysers. It’s a corpse that spends eternity reliving apparitions of itself in the throes of death. Your fights are puffed-up trivia, championed to crusades. You fill up teabags with animus that pours into kettles of disarray, scalding as missiles. They leave you ashy and scattered—that’s what’s left of your lovemaking, or the paranoia of it, you wonder about that.
More silence, the cloud of your argument hangs above it. He shrugs. Rolls up his window. Still air swells in the car.
“Air con working?” you say.
He flexes long corduroyed legs that end in moccasins. Flicks on the air button—and the radio. The bars of a soulful number, a remix by some new artist, give way to an even darker track titled ‘Nameless.’ It’s about a high priest who wears skinny black jeans and thrums heavy metal to bring space demons into a church that’s dressed as a concert. And the torments join in evensong, chanting psalms and canticles until daybreak when the demons wisp back into thin air, fading with them thirteen souls of the faithful, an annual pact with the priest.
Rain pelts the roof and windows like a drum.
He hums. Your face is distant. You might well be strangers, tossed into a tight drive from Broome to Kununurra.
The lilt of his voice merges with the somber melody.
You turn your face upward. A drift of darkness, even with full day, is approaching from the skies. Now it’s half-light. You flip the sun visor down. Not for compulsion or vanity, nothing like an urge to peer at yourself in the mirror. Perhaps it’s to busy your hands, to distract yourself, keep from bedevilment—the kind that pulls out a quarrel. You steal a glimpse of yourself in the mirror. Deep, deep eyes. They gleam like a cat’s. The soft curtain of your fringe is softening, despite thickset brows like a man’s. You feel disconnected with yourself, with the trip, with River. You flip the sun visor up.
Now the world is all grim. River turns on the headlights, but visibility is still bad. A bolt of lightning. You both see the arms of a reaching tree that has appeared on the road, right there in your path. You squeal, throw your arms out. River swerves. A slam of brakes. A screech of tires. Boom!
The world stops in a swallowing blackness. Inside the hollow, your ears are ringing. The car, fully intact, is shooting out of the dark cloud in slow motion, picking up speed. It’s soaring along the road washed in a new aurora of lavender, turquoise and silver, then it’s all clear. A gentle sun breaks through fluffs of cloud no more engulfed in blackness. You level yourself with a hand on the dashboard, uncertain what exactly happened.
You look at River. His hands . . . wrist up . . . he has no hands. Nothing bloody as you’d expect from a man with severed wrists. Just empty space where the arms end.
But River’s unperturbed, his arms positioned as if he’s driving, even while nothing is touching the steering that’s moving itself, turning and leveling.
“Brought my shades?” he asks.
“Your hands,” you say.
“What about them?”
“Can’t you see?”
His glance is full of impatience.
You sink back to your seat, unable to understand it, unclear to tell him, as the driverless car races along in silence down the lone road.